Baking for Beginners....

The ever enthusiastic Visha has decided to start baking and asked me a few questions...I am honored Visha, considering that i too started baking just a year back :)

In my journey of baking, i learnt a few things....I am sharing them here...This one is for you, Visha....

I have the LG Microwave Convection oven. It's not the celebrated OTG, but for me it has worked faithfully...I am pretty much satisfied with it (except the size sometimes)....

In this oven there are 3 modes and following are the utensils that can be used in these modes. Please be carefull about the utensils in each mode. If not paid proper attention, you may end up spoiling food, Utensil and the oven itself....So before starting please pay attention to the type of utensils you are using...

Oh and don't forget to buy a beater (manual or electric) and measuring cups and spoons....
Egg Beater - Image from here
Measuring Cups and spoons - Image from here

Don't confuse Microwave mode with Convection (baking) mode. In microwave mode food gets cooked by microwave rays while in convection (baking) mode food gets cooked by heat coming from heating coils. Hence both the modes need different types of utensils. Please read the whole post carefully before you start baking.

1) Microwave Mode: 

What utensils to use in this mode:

    Here you can use special microwave safe Plastic (some of tupperware are microwave safe - but always be sure to ask the vendor if it is really safe...) With my oven some Yellow coloured microwave safe utensil came, but i have never used them, as i am not comfortable cooking in plastic.
You can use Glassware and Chinaware (without any silver/golden design) for heating purpose. If your glassware/china has any metalic (silver/golden) design then please don't use them in your microwave mode.
One way to check if your glassware is microwave safe is to fill it with water and put in the microwave mode on full power for 1 minute. The water should heat up, but the glassware should not. If it heats up then it is not a good idea to use this for cooking. you may use it for occasional re-heating though.
I was also told that the i should be able to use the quartz grills that i got with my oven. But i have never needed them in this mode.
I use borosil and Cornigware microwave proof utensils for cooking in this mode....You can also use Pyrex in this mode....Basically the label on the utensil should say that it is microwave safe...These 3 brands i know are microwave safe. There can be other microwave safe glassware brands also, you can ask the shop keeper before buying them...
My borosil and cornigware microwave and ovenproof bowls

This is one more bowl that i bought from Homecentre (Brand unknown) . You should check for this  information on the utensil itself or on its packaging. If nothing is mentioned then confirm with a reliable shopkeeper.
The quartz Grills that came with my oven
This is the kind of utensil you should NEVER use in microwave mode - it has golden metallic lining
 I make chips, vaghareli rotli, bread crumbs, mug cakes in this mode....
You can also
-soften the hard butter/icecream (If you are like me and forget to get the butter out of fridge beforehand then this feature comes in handy)
-make ghee, (Pretty quickly)
-quickly boil potatoes (or any other vegetable), blanch tomatoes.
-dry green leafy vegetables/herbs to get dry herbs/vegetables (like Kasoori methi) - Haven't tried this, but my book suggests that this can be done too!!!

How to cook in this mode:
In this mode you set the power and the time. In my MW oven, there are different power levels indicated by number. In some basic machines there are 3 levels high, medium and low.
You select the power level then select the time and start cooking...Once the time is over my oven gives an alarm and i take out the food...

2) Convection Mode (For baking):

What utensils to use in this mode:

    This is the mode i use the most. This one is for baking cakes and breads and cookies and cupcakes....Now you know why i use this the most :)
Please note that not all microwaves have this option. Please confirm in manual before you start baking..
In this mode you can use metal utensils, preferably Aluminium utensils. I use my MIL's old cooker dabbas for baking garlic rolls and pav and sometimes cakes also.
Old cooker dabbas - You can see that i bake my pao and garlic rolls in these old faithfuls...
Also in my last visit to Ahmedabad i bought a cake pan, a bread loaf pan and a few cupcake moulds all of Aluminium. I bought them from our local utensils shop (Bartan wala). Here in Noida, i bought Aluminium Ramekins for Choco Lava Cake from a shop in Indira Market. (they specialize in bakeware).
My loaf pan, a smaller cake pan, cupcake moulds and measuring cups and spoons
The Aluminium ramekins for making choco lava cake
You can also use the borosil, cornigware and pyrex oven-proof utensils in this mode. I have used my corningware glassware to bake a cake. It works alright. But prefer Aluminium as food cooks faster in it.

In absence of ramekins i have used regular steel katoris too for baking choco lava cake. Though it's not a good idea to use it for your regular baking, as it doesn't give nice, uniform heating of Aluminium...
Oh and the quartz Grills that i have got with my oven works in this mode too...

As i mentioned before in this mode i make,
Chocolate sponge cake
Black forest cake
Chco lava cake
Ice cream cake
Brown bread
Garlic rolls
Braided bread
Almond Cardamom Cookies
Pizza base
Pao (Dinner rolls)

How to cook in this mode:
In this mode, you have to select temperature and time. Many a times recipes ask for preheating of oven also.
In my microwave oven, for preheating, i just have to select the temperature and start. Once the set temperature is reached the oven gives and alarm and i put the food to be baked inside.

For actual baking, i set temperature and then time and then start cooking. once the time is over the oven gives an alarm. I immediately take out the food, otherwise it will keep cooking, because the oven is still hot.

3) Grill (For Grilling, obviously :) )

What utensils to use in this mode:

In this mode you can make grilled sandwiches, toasts, tikkas, grilled fish etc...
I use it to make Farmhouse club sandwich, Potato Crispies, Paneer Tikka, Pasta with cheese, grilled vegetables...
In this mode, you can use all the utensils used in the Convection mode.
Most of the time i find myself using the Quartz grills (came with my oven) in this mode...

How to cook in this mode:

In this mode i just have to set time. So i set the time, put the food to be grilled in the oven and start. Once the time is over oven gives alarm. And i take out the food immediately otherwise it keeps getting grilled further...

These are a few tips for beginners...

1) While baking follow the recipe to the T (at least for the 1st time, 2nd time onwards you can experiment).

2) For baking breads: Before kneading the dough always check if the yeast is actually active. if not then please throw away this packet of yeast, buy another one. if the same thing happens again, try to use another brand of yeast. remember till your yeast is not active, you won't be able to bake those soft bread, pizza base etc. In colder months keep the yeast water sugar mixture (and the dough) in a warm place. I preheat my oven and keep it inside.

3) If possible, don't try a new dish for the 1st time when expecting guests or on any special occasion. You may be pressed for time and if the dish doesn't turn out to be as per expected then you may have to depend purely on your charm to entertain your guests!!!!

4) Always smell, touch and see food in every step of cooking. This way you will know if something goes wrong at any stage. My Grandmom can smell a dish (cooked/or in the process of cooking) and tell what's wrong with that!!! I can only tell that about the khatti meethi daal.

5) While experimenting and deviating from the recipe, try changing one thing at a time. That will help you in learning the effect of all the ingredients.

6) while baking keep an eye on food. For different ovens and bakeware the temperature and time needed for baking may vary, so first find out the time needed for your oven and bakeware and note it somewhere (or start a food blog and note it there ;) )

And don't worry, baking is not difficult, once you will start, you will find yourself on roll!!!
For the beginners i would suggest the Almond Cardamom cookies coz they are really easy to make and tasty to eat...And the 1st success will enhance your confidence....

Happy baking to all of you...

+techie ZM 

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